Balsam Range tenor pens story of near-death experienceBack story to "Stacking Up the Rocks" told
Buddy Melton, a lead singer, fiddler and one of the five founders of Haywood County's internationally known Balsam Range, has penned many songs through the years.
None has the meaning for him, his family and his fans as "Stacking up The Rocks." Featured on the latest album "Five," the gospel song is the band's first recorded a cappella music.
When Melton tries to tell the story of "Stacking Up the Rocks" from the stage, emotion overcomes him and he can't finish it. That's because it involves a near-death experience stemming from a freak farm accident in his pasture in Crabtree.
Melton’s life changed in a second in the early morning hours of March 12, 2012, when he was busy putting cattle into a trailer. As he’d done many times before, he swung the gate of the trailer to close it, but instead of it latching, it hit one of his cows. She didn’t take it well, and kicked the gate right back at him, hitting him in the face.
Instantly, Melton knew this was “more than just a bump on the head,” he said, though he had no idea how bad it was. All alone but luckily still conscious, he dialed 9-1-1 and walked back to the house, though it was getting hard to breathe and see, and he was bleeding copiously.
“I thought if I pass out, I better pass out in the front yard where someone might find me,” he said.
What he didn’t know then was that his right eye socket, nose and forehead had been shattered and the lining of his brain had been torn.
Family, friends and fans weren't worrying whether or not his clear high tenor voice would be heard again. They were worrying if he would live.
Melton's mother, retired school superintendent, author and historian Ann, tells it this way:
"Bud had his surgery and he wasn't doing well. I left the hospital late Sunday night knowing there was no way he could have a decent night. Carla (Melton's wife) stayed, of course. I worried all the way back to Waynesville and was actually dreading Monday morning. I knew the news wouldn't be good when I got back to the hospital. Bud wore dark glasses and his nervous system couldn't tolerate anyone speaking above a whisper. Any sort of stimulus agitated him. So as I entered his room the next morning, I mouthed to Carla the words, "What kind of night did he have?" I was dreading the answer.
"Carla said, 'Memaw, you're not going to believe this, but he slept all night. He didn't even have to have pain medicine.'
"Then Carla told me the rest of the story.
"Bud had been resting late Sunday night, and Carla's eyes were closed as she prayed. She sensed through her closed eyelids that a light had come on in Bud's room. She assumed it was a nurse checking on him. Carla opened her eyes.
"By the side of Buddy Melton's bed stood Jesus. Carla said to me, 'The face of Jesus was so bright I couldn't see the features. I just saw a giant bright, bright light and I saw Jesus take Bud's hand and say to him, "I have been sent to heal you."'
"And that Monday morning, Bud ate some jello, the first food he'd had in nine days. He got up, he didn't need pain medication until late in the day, the next day he stayed up much of the day, then the following day they brought him home, and he insisted that somebody take him immediately to the Mountain Home recording studio. He sang his tracks over the ones Balsam Range already had recorded. The band wanted to be ready for his return.They never lost faith, but they didn't know if Bud would be alive to finish it, or if he could ever sing again if he did live."
Ann Melton drew closer. "Look in The Living Bible. Joshua, Chapter 4, verse 19," she said with the earnestness of a mother who knows in her heart that her son's survival is a miracle.
"That's where Joshua led the Israelites to the Jordan River and God stopped the water from flowing so they could walk across the river bed. The Lord told Joshua to tell the 12 men representing the 12 tribes of Israel to each take a stone and pile them up as a monument so that when their children ask the purpose of the monument, they can say it is to remind people that the Jordan River stopped flowing long enough for them to get across. The stacked rocks were to be a permanent reminder to the people of Israel of this amazing miracle."
Her voice got stronger as she continued.
"Look at verse 19," she said with excitement. "It will tell you that this miracle at the Jordan River occurred on the 25th of March and the people were told to let others know about it.
"Jesus visited Buddy Melton's hospital room on the 25th of March," his mother said. "And 'Stacking Up the Rocks" is his witness and the band's witness to the miracle that is Buddy Melton."
Balsam Range's International Bluegrass Music Association awards include song of the year and album of the year. Their sold-out concerts always end with standing ovations. AtSaturday's Plottfest performance folks didn't wait for the end of the set to stand up. Buddy's "Stacking Up the Rocks" brought a cheering crowd to its feet in the middle of the show.
Emcee and bass player Tim Surrett said, "I really don't know what we can do to top that."
Ann Melton wiped a tear from behind her sunglasses.
Joshua, Chapter 4, vs. 19
19 This miracle occurred on the 25th of March.[a] That day the entire nation crossed the Jordan River and camped in Gilgal at the eastern edge of the city of Jericho